Beyond the Slimy Wall: Dreamcatcher
By Stephanie Star Smith
October 14, 2004
We here at BOP are an eclectic group, and our tastes in movies run from the serious cinephiles to the foreign-film aficionados to niche film lovers. Thus was born the idea for this weekly column, devoted to horror films of all shapes and sizes, but concentrating on those B- and C-grade films that mainstream reviewers disdain, but are the bread-and-butter of every spook movie lover's viewing. So come with me as we venture beyond the slimy wall, uncovering the treasures - and burying the time-wasting bombs - that await those who dare to love the scare.
Poor Stephen King.
One of the most prolific, and arguably one of the best, horror novelists of the 20th century, Hollywood's attempts to bring King's horror novels to the silver screen have, for the most part, been abysmal (although for some reason, it has done a great job of turning King's non-horror novellas into films). Since Carrie, most of Hollywood's efforts based on King novels have, not to put too fine a point on it, sucked. But every once in a while, there comes a King-based feature film that isn't half-bad. Thinner falls into this category; it was, in fact, pretty good. And Christine wasn't entirely awful.
Which brings us to Dreamcatcher. When it was released in March of 2003, Dreamcatcher already had the scent of failure about it; rumors about abysmal audience screenings had surfaced long before its scheduled release, and the film was met with savage reviews and indifference at the box office when it hit theatres, where it did not remain long. Recouping only half its budget during its domestic run, Dreamcatcher quickly achieved a reputation as a really, really bad film.
Well, friends, that judgment may have been a bit hasty, for while Dreamcatcher certainly isn't one of the best films I've ever seen, it is also very, very far from being the worst. In fact, Dreamcatcher is a nice little spook movie that inexplicably - to me, at least - audiences didn't take to while it was in theatres. But now that it's making its cable go-round, you have the chance to find it, and I highly recommend you do.
The film centers on four men, friends since childhood, all of whom are pretty screwed-up individuals. In about the only "Oh, yeah, that would happen" moment in the film, we quickly learn these four possess certain paranormal gifts, because they don't take any great pains to hide their abilities from the so-called normal folk. Near-tragedy leads the four to a mid-winter visit to their hideaway in the woods, which is where things really get going.
As always, to reveal much more about the plot at this point would be unfair, although admittedly, it's not like the film travels down any roads we haven't traversed before. But as is the case with many other films in the genre, Dreamcatcher is successful not because its story arc is completely unique but because it handles the action in an interesting manner, and throws in some unusual touches as well. And while some of the plot depends on the people-who've-never-seen-a-horror film aspect - any one of us fans of the genre would've stopped the plot dead in its tracks shortly after we get to the cabin - there are also some elements that are unexpected, even surprising. And the acting is top-notch, from the always-reliable Morgan Freeman to Tom Sizemore to Thomas Jane and Damian Lewis. A special mention goes to Andrew Robb, who plays the young Duddits; he takes a difficult role and handles it with the delicate touch needed to avoid both bathos and ersatz saintliness. One other special mention goes to the opening credits. I won't go into the specifics, although it would be a minor spoiler at best, but it's fun how the filmmakers indicate from the first images elements that will be important to the story.
In fact, the only real problem I have with Dreamcatcher - and again, this is a minor quibble with what is otherwise a perfectly good little spook movie - is that the title object has little to do with the plot. There's a big dreamcatcher in the cabin, and in one scene, the four main characters refer to Duddits as their dreamcatcher, but other than that, bupkis. I think the eponymous symbol should have been integral to the story.
I see by the shadows falling from my bust of Pallas that our time is up. Until next time, then, when we will once again venture Beyond the Slimy Wall.